Changes ahead for Possible Dreams Auction
Troubled by the impact a rain delay had on last summer's event, Possible Dream Auction organizers have decided that after 29 years on Edgartown Harbor at the Harborside Inn, the popular summer benefit for Martha's Vineyard Community Services will move inland this summer to Outerland at the Martha's Vineyard Airport. After a 2007 that saw the death of star auctioneer and passionate Possible Dreams supporter Art Buchwald, an August storm forcing a postponement which lead to sharply reduced revenues, and a 30th anniversary on the horizon, the 19-member auction committee came to believe the time was right to make some changes.
Jan Hatchard, development director for Martha's Vineyard Community Services as well as other committee members said last August's rained out event resulted in substantially lower income and motivated the committee to seriously consider a change of location. As a result of the one-day postponement, many patrons including a number of well-heeled bidders and celebrities were unable to attend. The total amount raised, including admission and on-line auction proceeds, was $531,000. Proceeds for 2006, Mr. Buchwald's last year on the podium, hit a record $872,172. Figures for 2004 and 2005 were hefty too, at $602,555 and $786,634.
In another major move the committee plans to sharply reduce the number of "dreams" on the auction block. In recent years the list has typically included 50 or more items. Ms. Hatchard said that organizers had received complaints for some time that the auction went on too late into the evening. Organizers were concerned by the fact that the last several items on the list did not get the attention that earlier offerings did, since patrons had begun to leave before the end as darkness began to fall.
Ms. Hatchard and others involved with the auction said there is no plan at this time to drop specific dreams nor any particular type of item. She said the committee has not yet begun working actively on creating a trimmed-down list for this summer, but that one possibility may be to consolidate several dreams into enticing packages rather than eliminating any well-liked offerings.
In a third change the committee will scrap the online auction begun three years ago. Ms. Hatchard explained that the online event had demanded extensive manpower to put together and was not worth it despite the fact it brought in some healthy income. (Revenues for the online auction from 2005 to 2007 were less than $25,000 the first year and approximately $67,000, and $52,000 for the next two years.) The auction was begun in 2005 on a three-year trial basis. Ms. Hatchard said that the effort that went into the online event can now be redirected to the main auction and "organizers can refocus their energy on the creation of one-of-a-kind dreams."
By moving Possible Dreams to a massive tent at Outerland, organizers will no longer need to be concerned about the weather. Ms. Hatchard and others enumerated additional pluses not available at the Edgartown site including extensive parking, available food and beverage service, and sound equipment ready to be used. Volunteers and staff had to bring all equipment, chairs, and refreshments to the Harborside garden which one committee member said was a logistical "nightmare" despite the gracious cooperation and assistance of Harborside staff. But despite the drawbacks, those close to Possible Dreams were reluctant to leave.
"Everybody, especially on the committee, loved the event where it was," commented Ms. Hatchard. "There was so much history there, 29 years. The site and the event were a perfect fit for each other.
"We will miss the Harborside. They are like family to us. Manager Joe Badot and his staff made everything possible for us."
A subcommittee headed by DiAnn Ray formed last fall and visited a number of potential venues including Outerland, the site of the former Hot Tin Roof now owned by Barry and Mona Rosenthal. Ms. Hatchard said that once the full committee had heard the positive report about Outerland "people began getting excited about it. They felt this could be a good place, a good, safe, rain or shine place."
Along with providing a grand tent capable of seating 1,200, Outerland will make the nightclub available for a gala 30th Anniversary Dinner, accommodating 300 guests. Both Mr. Rosenthal and Ms. Hatchard said that financial details of the arrangement and many logistical matters have still to be finalized. Mr. Rosenthal and Possible Dreams representatives were scheduled to address some of these subjects at a meeting yesterday afternoon.
Barry Rosenthal said in a telephone interview Tuesday night that he is delighted that Outerland was picked to host the prestigious Possible Dreams Auction. He said he and his staff will work long and hard to make sure the event runs smoothly and succeeds.
"It's a landmark event for us and I know how important it is for Martha's Vineyard," Mr. Rosenthal said. "Especially in light of a changing Vineyard and a more challenging world in general, Martha's Vineyard Community Services' fundraising efforts are even more crucial than ever before.
"I want it to be successful. It would be a feather in our cap to help them reach their goals. It was a very big decision for them and something we're taking very seriously."